You’ve all heard of famous inventors such Thomas Jefferson (The Great Clock), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone) and Benjamin Franklin (bifocal glasses), but do you know who Grace Hopper and Stephanie Kwolek are?
One of these women invented computer programming, without which it’s fair to say the world would be a very different place, and the other invented Kevlar, a material five times stronger than steel, currently used around the world to protect people from bullets! Now these are very important inventions, but as history shows us, women’s achievements can often be overlooked when it comes to handing out the correct amount of praise.
We’ve decided to correct that and take a look at some of the most important discoveries and inventions made by women in the last 100 years:
1. Marie Curie – Theory of Radioactivity
Despite what people might think, you CAN split an atom. This was one of the major discoveries made by Marie Curie whilst she was studying ‘radioactive’ elements. Marie Curie received her first Nobel Prize for the discovery of radioactivity and her second for her discovery of polonium and radium. She was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes!
2. Nancy Johnson – The Ice Cream Maker
In 1843, Nancy became one of the most important women, nay, people, in history by patenting a design that made ice cream, which is still used to the current day! We don’t know what more to say other than thank you, Nancy Johnson. Thank you.
3. Maria Telkes – The FIRST 100 percent solar powered house
In 1947, the Hungarian scientist invented the thermoelectric power generator to provide heat for Dover House, a wedge-shaped structure she conceived with architect Eleanor Raymond. Girl power indeed!
4. Ann Tsukamoto – Stem cell isolation
This was a huge and complex invention…The ability to isolate the stem cell has been vital in medical advancements in learning more about cancer. Hopes are that one day it could lead to a cure to that and many other diseases.
5. Grace Hopper – The Computer
Grace Hopper Howard Aiken designed Harvard’s Mark I computer, a five-ton, room-sized machine in 1944. Hopper invented the compiler that translated written language into computer code and coined the terms “bug” and “debugging” when she had to remove moths from the device (who knew?!) Now, just close your eyes for a minute, and try to think what the world would be like without this invention. Almost unbearable isn’t it?
6. Elizabeth Magie – Monopoly
Speaking of a time before the computer, no childhood memories would be complete without the recollection of getting into a tizz about your brother stealing from the bank, or not passing GO…
Originally called The Landlord’s Game and a critique of the injustices of unchecked capitalism, the idea was stolen by a fella named Charles Darrow and sold to Parker Brothers. The company did eventually track down Elizabeth Magie, but only offered her $500 for her invention!
7. Rosalind Franklin – DNA double helix
Although the discovery of the DNA double helix is often attributed to Watson and Crick, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1962, it was not actually theirs to claim.
Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist, was the first person to capture a photographic image using a technique she had honed: observing molecules using X-ray diffraction (nope, we’ve got no idea what this is either, don’t worry).
Why was she never credited for this?! Well, without her permission, an estranged male colleague of hers showed her photograph to competitors Watson and Crick, and the rest as they say, is his-story.
8. Maria Beasley – The life raft
In 1882, Maria Beasely decided that people should stop dying at sea. Which is great. People had been navigating the seas for millennia, but until then hadn’t come up with an effective product to help in the event of a SOS situation. Now, thanks to Maria, thousands of lives have been saved!
9. Stephanie Kwolek – Kevlar
Although this invention was an accident, it makes it no less loved! This material, which is five times stronger than steel, is used in bicycle tires, racing sails, body armor, frying pans, musical instruments and building construction, thanks to its tensile strength-to-weight ratio (again, no idea). What isn’t it in?
10. Dr. Shirley Jackson – Research that lead to the invention of all things telecommunication
The theoretical physicist was the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from MIT, in 1973. While working at Bell Laboratories, she conducted breakthrough scientific research with subatomic particles that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting. Imagine all the important information you would have missed without this amazing woman!
There are obviously many other important inventions and discoveries made by women over the years, but we want to know which ones you think are the most important?! Let us know in the comments section below!